We’ve previously covered lawyers who file hundreds of lawsuits alleging discrimination against the disabled over alleged technical violations of the law, and then extort settlements at thousands of dollars a pop. (E.g., Nov. 4; Aug. 28; May 31, 2005). The Sacramento Bee recently ran an extensive series on the issue. (Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton, “Visionary law’s litigious legacy”, Nov. 15 ; Id., “Frequent filers”, Nov. 16; Id., “Targeting entire towns”, Nov. 12; Bullet-point summary).
A California court has interpreted that state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act to only provide $4000 penalties in the case of intentional violations of the law; while this is a good public policy result in the abstract, I’m personally wary of the court using its judicial power to rewrite the poor legislation. It also doesn’t fix the problem with the federal law. (Gunther v. Lin; Wendy Thomas Russell, “Court ruling puts crimp in disability lawsuits”, Long Beach Press Telegram, Nov. 19). And in Florida, the press is just getting around to noticing the drive-by problem because of Robert Cohen’s 300 suits. (Kelli Kennedy, “‘Drive by’ suits rake in dough for attorneys”, AP/Miami Herald, Nov. 28 (h/t W.F.)). Even reflexive reform opponent Stephanie Mencimer takes notice and can’t defend the parasitic lawyering involved, but manages to spin the issue to implausibly blame the Republicans for the problem—though the ADA’s civil remedies were drafted by Democrats when they controlled Congress in 1991.